Vena Cava Productions
Woodward Theatre Kelvin Grove
Reviewed by Meredith McLean
(And posted late, with my sincere apologies to Meredith and my congrats to Vena Cava on their sell-out season! – Ed).
I knew I was dealing with a play rooted in the old texts of ancient playwrights. Vena Cava, as part of their second Mainhouse performance in which a classic text is adapted, chose a piece wonderfully vivid with emotional carnage. Euripides meets Charles Mee’s creation, Iphigenia 2.0. It reminds me of the famous section in the Sistine Chapel titled “The Creation of Adam”; God’s hand touching man’s fingertip. That’s what I feel like when even simply reading Mee’s work. It is as if Euripides had spoken to Mee himself.
But tonight was not an evening with Charles Mee. Tonight I was interested to see how Vena Cava at QUT would go about bringing this crowded text to life. Heavy themes can easily drag a production down if the cast cannot hold the weight on their shoulders. However I didn’t doubt the QUT students under Dave Sleswick’s guidance would falter. In fact they rose to the challenge eagerly and brought the house down instead.
Light is never truly appreciated until you have to find it in the dark. Leaving the audience uneasy in the shadows with eerie music leering from the house speakers I was already excited. Then we’re lit up to find a neo industrial chic about the stage. Tires, wire fences, lockers and military clothes hang about. But the first words do not come so quickly. Before Agamemnon brought hauntingly to life and misery by Pavle Banovic even begins addressing the audience the rigid choreography of the troops set a context for us. A peculiar, militant procession underpins the theme of sacrifice.
But the cast only chains themselves to a universal melancholy for so long before the tension snaps. The fluid motions of the script let a disturbing message creep up on the audience then withdraws fire quickly before feeling overly preachy. We watch our soldiers lurch into a new atmosphere of rage or even romance. At times the comedy distilled in certain scenes is even more striking than the painful ones. A Douglas Coupland-like mannerism of reference to consumerism and popular culture completes the antics of the cast. Even so much as tweaking certain lines to more Australian colloquialisms that everyone can chuckle at.
The violent nature of the power play between Agamemnon and Menelaus is a cold static that ripples in the room. When Menelaus played by Benjamin Warren shares macabre tales of war that make the stomach squirm Agamemnon’s reaction make the heart quicken. Both Pavle Banovic and Benjamin Warren equally frighten and endear the audience. It is an excellent display by both of the young actors.
The collective as soldiers is another level of performance entirely. They bring to light the questions no one wants to ask. What is right and wrong in war? What is supposed to be fair and what is classified as unjust? Are we doing the wrong things for the right reasons? The troupe commit emotionally and physically for the role at hand. I’m told morning jogs, rigid exercise and a militant mentality is instilled before and during every show. Their dedication to the chaos in certain scenes is an electrifying force
Dave Sleswick in his first collaboration with Vena Cava has set a high standard for himself if he plans to work with them again. How he tops this production I would be eager to find out. Iphigenia 2.0 is a petrifying array of love and violence that will keep you chained to your seat much like the soldiers are chained to the war machine.
The war ended on 4th of August.
Assistant Production Manager
Assistant Stage Manager
Assistant Production Designer
Lighting Designer/AAD Head of Productions
Assistant Lighting Designer/Operator
Ray Ann Roborg-Sondergaard
Tom van Kalken
NEXT at The Woodward Theatre
Voice + This That Nothing is a double bill of original performance works by Nathan Sibthorpe and Blancanvas Productions.
Door Sales Only
QUT Kelvin Grove
Before they take the leap down south, Voice + This That Nothing will be presented in The Woodward Theatre this week for two fundraising preview performances, supported by Vena Cava Productions. 2 nights only. Door sales only.